Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Solitude is incredibly effective.”

To remain alone is one of the best ways to attain self-rectification.

One begins to reflect more and more on oneself and on one’s path, the outer shells of one’s personality begin to fall off, and sometimes parts of a person that were hidden behind these shells are revealed.

In the course of Jewish history, mainly in the time of the First Temple, there were many prophets, all of whom were extraordinary personalities who performed wonders in heaven and on earth, and yet none of this helped avert the destruction of the Temple and the exile.

People sat and listened to the prophets and exclaimed, “What a wonderful derasha! What language! What Hebrew! What a pleasure to hear!” (see Ezekiel 33:30-32) – and then they went to sleep.

Only during the transition between the First Temple period and the Second Temple period can one see a change in Israel’s attitude toward the prophets.

During the Second Temple period, there was a fundamental change for the better – Judaism began to deal with other matters.

Why did this happen?

Apparently, the period of destruction and exile, the period characterized by the verse, “How does the city sit solitary” (Lam. 1:1), gave better moral instruction than all of the prophets combined.

Apparently, solitude is incredibly effective.

Then as now, people feel complacent, as long as they are in their own place, with an army to protect them and diplomatic relations with their neighbors – whether these neighbors are the Assyrians and the Egyptians or the Americans and the Russians – and with a great deal of money to build palaces across the country, all in accordance with national protocol.

When the prophet comes and cries out in protest – it is easy to ignore him.

But seventy years of “How does the city sit solitary” accomplished what all the prophets were unable to do.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz